The SAD time of year
It’s that time of year, when the days get shorter and the amount of sunlight we are exposed to decreases dramatically. In some individuals who are predisposed to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) this corresponds to an increase in depressive symptoms. While the cause of this disorder is not fully understood, many believe that changes in our neurochemicals may be responsible: specifically changes in Melatonin levels. Melatonin is a chemical that is produced during the hours of darkness; it is involved with regulation of sleep, temperature, and release of other hormones. It is thought that individuals with SAD produce an excess of Melatonin that leads to depressive symptoms.
Symptoms of SAD can sometimes mimic hibernation: tendency to sleep more, eat more (especially cravings for high carbohydrate items), weight gain, irritability, fatigue, social withdrawal and isolation (in addition to other signs of depression: sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, loss of interest and pleasure, and difficulty concentrating and focusing. SAD is more than the “winter blues” and requires a full diagnosis of Major Depression with the seasonal specifier for timing.
If you suspect that you might have SAD or Seasonal Depression, please see your doctor for full evaluation and discussion of treatment options. Many treatments are available and may include Light Therapy, medications, and psychotherapy. Light Therapy (with a specialized lamps using 10,000 Lux bulbs) should be initiated in early November and continued on a daily basis, for 30 minutes daily, until March or otherwise instructed by your healthcare professional. It’s not too late to address the cycle of moodiness and loss of motivation that may occur this time each year.